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Studded-tire deadline won’t change, despite record snowfall, DOT says

Tue., March 31, 2009, midnight

Spokane may have set two new records for snowfall on Sunday and early Monday, but Washington transportation officials are holding firm on their decision to require studded snow tires to be removed by Wednesday.

Shops across the region had wait times of up to two hours for customers needing to switch their tires before the state’s April 1 deadline.

In past years when winter weather persisted through March, the state Department of Transportation extended the studded-tire season. Not this year. The DOT on Monday reaffirmed the deadline.

Spokane set two records for snowfall at Spokane International Airport: the most ever on March 29, at 3.9 inches; and the most snowfall in a season , at 93.6 inches, since snow recordkeeping began in 1893. That was reached with a dusting of a tenth of an inch early Monday.

That tops the 93.5 inches measured in 1949-’50 by a mere tenth of an inch.

The previous daily snowfall record for March 29 was 1.9 inches, set a year ago when Spokane flirted with breaking the season snowfall record. The year ended with 92.6 inches of snow, which is now ranked third on the list of snowiest years here.

This year’s record could go a little higher: A new Pacific storm expected to arrive by this morning has the potential to drop a half-inch at the airport in the early hours.

Despite the late snow, the tire changing deadline is almost a rite of spring – a task that brings with it the promise of warmer weather.

“Shorts, tank tops and flip-flops – bring on summer,” said Rachel Lien, who dropped her car off at Poor Boys Tire and Automotive, 2501 N. Division St., on Monday.

Lien brought a tray of Rice Krispies treats and a tin of cupcakes for the employees.

Owner Nancy Masingale said the wait for removing studded tires was two hours Monday afternoon.

At Perfection Tire & Auto Repair, 9602 N. Division St., general manager Scott Richards said he had 60 customers show up by early afternoon on Monday, and he expects a similar rush today. “It’s still going to be a madhouse,” he said.

One customer told Richards the studded-tire deadline “totally snuck up on me.”

In Idaho, the deadline is April 30.

Forecasters said they expect rain today to be followed by rain and snow through Friday, then sun and temperatures in the low 50s on the weekend. An advisory was issued Monday afternoon for winds gusting to 45 mph today.

This week’s storms are likely to bring mountain snow as well.

March snowfall has been nearly three times normal for the month with 9.2 inches measured at the airport so far, compared with a normal monthly total through March 29 of 3.5 inches.

Total precipitation from rain and melted snow in March is 2.3 inches, compared with a normal of 1.45 inches.

Normal highs for the end of March are 53 degrees for a high in Spokane and 32 for a low.

Weather officials said Monday the snowpack in the mountains of North Idaho and in Pend Oreille County continues to build with March storms and is now at 92 percent of normal, up from about 80 percent at the start of the month. However, the mountains of Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens counties have only about 66 percent of normal snowpack.

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